I have No Regrets after reading Ann Rule's latest book...

Dec 19, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Seven engaging true crime stories.

Cons:May be too detailed for some readers.

The Bottom Line: Ann Rule does it again.

I found Ann Rule's latest true crime book No Regrets: And Other True Cases (2006) on a recent shopping spree at Border's. I've always enjoyed Ann Rule's writing and usually have a hard time deciding which book to read. I didn't even know Rule had a new book out when I found No Regrets sitting on the shelf with many of the other books she's written over the years. Ann Rule is a very prolific writer and most of the time, she delivers quality writing.

I was lured to purchase No Regrets by the synopsis on the back cover. Unlike a lot of Rule's true crime books, No Regrets is not about one case, nor is it mostly about one case with a few shorter stories tacked onto the end. Instead, Rule includes seven true crime tales in one book. The first one, entitled "The Sea Captain", covers a little over half of the book and has its own photo section. The other six true crime cases are much shorter, though still longer than the short stories she usually includes with her books. Rule also includes a second photo section for the shorter stories.

The Sea Captain, the first tale in this book, is the tragic story of Rolf Neslund, a Norwegian national and ship's pilot who had a talent for guiding huge freighters through the Puget Sound. Neslund was born in 1900, the son of shippers. Longing for excitement in a faraway land, Neslund left Norway for New York at age 17. He lied about his age, making himself three years older than he actually was. Neslund spent his younger years becoming an expert shipper until he finally became a pilot on the Puget Sound in Washington State.

Neslund was a charming guy who, at 34 years of age, had married his first wife, Margot, also a Norwegian. The following year, Neslund met Margot's younger sister, Elinor, who was eleven years old at the time. Though he was old enough to be Elinor's father, twenty-one years later, he met Elinor again when she was a single mother of two young girls. The two were very attracted to each other and Neslund persuaded Elinor to move in with him and Margot when Margot became chronically ill. It wasn't long before Rolf Neslund and Elinor, his wife's younger sister, were having a torrid affair. Though she tried to ignore the affair, it was obvious to Margot that Elinor wasn't going to go away. Margot filed for a divorce, leaving Rolf Neslund free to marry Elinor. Rolf and Elinor went to Finland to get married; however, unbeknownst to them, the divorce wasn't final when they had the ceremony. Consequently, Rolf Neslund's marriage to Elinor was never legal. Meanwhile, Elinor gave birth to Rolf's first son. She was soon pregnant with Rolf's second son. Rolf moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and sent for his "wife" and son. He explained to Elinor what happened, bought a Canadian marriage license, and made plans to marry Elinor legally. Except there was yet another woman in Rolf Neslund's life... the woman that was going to be death of him.

During the time Rolf Neslund was setting up housekeeping in North America, he met Nettie "Ruth" Myers, in Seattle. Rolf wanted to work in the United States, but he was not yet a legal citizen. Ruth set her sights on Rolf Neslund and threatened to expose him to immigration officials if he didn't marry her. Worried that he would be deported if he didn't marry Ruth, Rolf complied with her demands. But Rolf didn't tell Elinor about that. Instead, he moved Ruth into his home with Elinor under the pretenses that Ruth would be sort of a housekeeper while Elinor was expecting her second son with Rolf. Elinor was suspicious of the whole scheme and it was a miserable time for her. She didn't like Ruth. Perhaps luckily for Elinor, the situation didn't last. Rolf confessed that he was already married and Elinor went back to Norway with their sons.

Ruth was not very educated, but she had a head for business. She had a knack for buying and selling property and made a lot of money on the side, even as Rolf made a good living as a ship's pilot. Ruth handled the finances in the Neslund home, giving Rolf cash whenever he needed it, but keeping a tight rein on his access to money. Rolf tried to send Elinor money to support his sons, but Ruth would go ballistic whenever she found out that Rolf sent her money. Their relationship continued that way for years. Despite that, many people thought that Rolf and Ruth were very much in love with each other. They eventually moved to Lopez Island in Washington State. Neighbors noticed that Rolf and Ruth fought a lot, but they always seemed to make up in time. They were surprised with Rolf Neslund suddenly went missing in August 1980. Ruth claimed that he had gone to Norway and they were going to get divorced. Meanwhile, Ruth began selling off her husband's personal effects. She opened a bed and breakfast that became very successful. It took years for local investigators to find out what really happened to Rolf Neslund at his wife's hands. And it took a couple more years before Ruth Neslund was brought to justice for her crime.

It (Ain't) Hard Out There For The Pimps is the shocking story of Arden Lee, a Seattle prostitute who was badly beaten and left for dead by a john. After surviving the brutal attack, the prostitute staggered outside naked, begging passersby for help. Surprisingly, the first people who saw her in obvious distress ignored her pleas. A man reluctantly called for an ambulance after she assured him that he didn't have to come close to her. Medics got her to the hospital and doctors there were certain that she wouldn't survive. Somehow, she did pull through and managed to bring her attacker to justice.

The Runaway and the Soldier is the story of a troubled teenager in Washington State who hooked up with the wrong man and wound up being murdered. Sadly, her body lay undiscovered in the woods for months before she was even missed. Her family had already moved back to their native Georgia when the young woman was found dead.

The Tragic Ending To A Bank Robber's Fantasy is about Sam Jesse, a young man with dreams of big, easy money. In order to get his big stash of money, the man planned to rob a bank. He planned his crime carefully and completed the robbery... but he hadn't planned of the bravery of William Heggie, the seventy-seven year old relief manager at the bank. Just as the robber was making his getaway, Heggie tried to lock the door. He was shot and killed for his efforts. The police were at a loss as to who committed the crime until one of Sam Jesse's buddies came forward and told them a far fetched story that turned out to be true.

A Very Bad Christmas is the sad tale of Carol Hamilton and her children, Bobby and Judy. Judy Hamilton, age four, was found on the shore of the Columbia River on Sauvie Island. It was two days before Christmas, 1968. She was fully clothed. It looked like she had drowned, but when the authorities turned her over, they found a large cut on her forehead where she had been struck by a large, blunt object. Eighty-one feet from the child lay a large pink bundle. The bundle turned out to be Carol Hamilton, Judy's mother. The adult female had been decapitated and was missing her left ring finger. Later, the woman's head was found in a pillowcase. It was clear that she too had been struck on the head. Since there were no reports of missing persons who fit the victims' descriptions, the police published their pictures in the newspaper, where they were finally recognized by a family friend.

Carol Hamilton and her husband, Richard (Dick), had seemed like the perfect family. Carol was a devoted mom to her two children, a hard worker, and a devoted churchgoer. Dick Hamilton had a job as a medical technician and attended the local Bible college. But Dick didn't want to be married anymore and he didn't want to pay alimony or child support. He told his neighbors that he thought his wife was cheating on him. Dick tricked Carol into signing a confession to adultery. When it became clear that Carol had never cheated on her husband and Dick's plan to make her look guilty wasn't going to work, he decided to murder his family. Ann Rule includes his chilling confession note, complete with misspellings. It's such a classic admission of guilt that it's still used as an example in many northwestern law schools.

To Save Their Souls is the devastating story of Christine Jonsen, a woman who murdered her two young sons in an effort to "save their souls". This story is somewhat a parallel of the Andrea Yates case, as well as an interesting discussion of the M'naughton rule of insanity.

And the last story, Or We'll Kill You is a gruesome story of rape and threatened murder. To be honest, I had the hardest time reading the last story, which includes graphic depictions of rape.

As usual, Ann Rule spins these true crime stories with class. She includes her own commentary before each very detailed story. And as his her custom, Ann Rule is somehow able to show empathy for the victims while at the same time, allowing the perpetrators to maintain their humanity. Ann Rule has a very engaging, entertaining writing style, too. No Regrets definitely held my attention. I count it as one of her better books.

I can only offer one caveat. Ann Rule's books tend to be very convoluted and detailed. She does exhaustive research and includes as many facets of her stories as she can. Sometimes, the extreme detail can make her stories hard to follow. Even though this review is pretty detailed, it really only scratches the surface of each case in No Regrets. The book is over 400 pages, but it's hard to skim it without missing important details. If you don't have the patience for complicated stories, you might not like this book. But I have to say that I liked this book. I count reading it as time well spent.

Ann Rule's Web site: www.annrules.com

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